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Celebrating 45 years of WorldCat

DUBLIN, Ohio, August 26, 2016—Today is the 45th anniversary of the launch of WorldCat, the world’s most comprehensive database of information about library collections.

On August 26, 1971, the OCLC Online Union Catalog (now known as WorldCat) began operation. From a single terminal, catalogers at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, were able to catalog 133 books online that day. Today, WorldCat comprises more than 380 million records representing more than 2.4 billion titles in libraries worldwide.

“WorldCat represents the cooperative spirit of thousands of librarians and catalogers around the world who have contributed to this unique resource for the past 45 years,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “What started as a database created for Ohio libraries to share work and resources has become a global network of data about the collective collection of the world’s libraries. Technologies have changed and evolved over time, but the objectives of WorldCat have remained the same—to improve access to information through library cooperation. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of library staff around the world working with OCLC staff, the creation and evolution of WorldCat is a remarkable achievement.”

Ohio University’s Alden Library was the first library to catalog a book online using WorldCat. The title of the first book cataloged in WorldCat: The Rand McNally Book of Favorite Pastimes.

“Our contribution and participation in the creation of WorldCat with the submission of the first record is an incredible legacy and an incredible part of our history,” said Scott Seaman, Dean of Libraries at Ohio University. “The ability to electronically share library cataloging—and library holdings—revolutionized not just libraries, but also scholarship. What WorldCat has become in the 45 years since is just as extraordinary. It speaks to the dedication and the hard work of librarians everywhere.”

Since 1971, 380 million records have been added to WorldCat, spanning more than 5,000 years of recorded knowledge. This unique collection of information encompasses records in a variety of formats—books, e-books, DVDs, digital resources, serials, sound recordings, musical scores, maps, visual materials, mixed materials, computer files and more.

Libraries cooperatively contribute, enhance and share bibliographic data through WorldCat, connecting people to cultural and scholarly resources in libraries worldwide. Each record in the WorldCat database contains a bibliographic description of a single title or work and a list of institutions that hold the item. Institutions share these records, using them to create local catalogs, arrange interlibrary loans and conduct reference work. Libraries contribute records for titles not found in WorldCat using OCLC shared cataloging systems.

When libraries share their data through WorldCat, they support a variety of network services, such as global resource sharing, collection evaluation and collection management.

WorldCat gives people the ability to view library collections from anywhere in the world, giving them access to a rich assortment of information much deeper than what can be found through a basic internet search. There are 491 languages and dialects represented in WorldCat, and 62 percent of records are in languages other than English.

WorldCat makes it possible for libraries to share data and improve the visibility and accessibility of library resources where users begin their searches. Once records have been added to WorldCat, they can be discovered on the Web through popular websites and through

On average, a bibliographic record is added to WorldCat every second. To watch WorldCat grow in real time, visit the OCLC website.

Read a blog post by Scott Seaman, Dean of Libraries at Ohio University, at and watch a brief video featuring library staff, faculty and students describing the university’s role in the history of WorldCat

About OCLC
OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC’s WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.

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